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Dislike: Facebook made me feel like a cult member
Erica Harrigan Orr
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Names have been changed.

Facebook is supposed to be a great way to keep in touch with people, but it can cause unnecessary drama that’s painful and takes you away from your real life. It happened to me: Facebook was like an addiction that made me feel bad, but I couldn’t stop going on all the time.

I made a Facebook page a few years ago because I wanted to reconnect with friends and family I’d grown distant from. I liked setting up my profile and being able to show my creative side with the photos I posted. I liked being able to let someone know in a comment if I like something they put on their page for show and tell. That’s how I see Facebook—show and tell for grown-ups.

I quickly got obsessed. I discovered that I can sit for hours commenting on friends’ albums, posting my own pictures, posting jokes, responding to messages/comments, and updating my profile. I looked like a hot mess wearing T-shirts with holes and men’s boxers, my eyes all red from staring at that screen for hours. I felt like a member of a cult.

I first friended people from the residential treatment center (RTC) I lived in from ages 13 to 18 after I went to a reunion there. (I’m 25 now.) After I added one person, people from the RTC kept requesting me, even people I didn’t remember or never liked or who never liked me. It seemed like everyone added each other just because we were in the same RTC.

One of these so-called friends was Tonya. I met her years ago when I was in a transitional group home. We was cool, but she wasn’t such a good influence on me. She smoked weed and stole things as a hobby. She encouraged me to steal and when I didn’t, she made fun of me. She pretended to be a caring, loving friend, but she’d boss me around like I was her child—telling me what clothes to buy and how I should get my hair done. I felt closed in living with her, yet I still stayed around her because I didn’t have anyone else to be around. We fell out of touch after I got out of that home.

Once we “friended” on Facebook, she posted hateful posts and comments about me on her Wall and on other people’s Walls. Her posts weren’t on my Wall, but they responded to my Wall posts that had nothing to do with her.

Explaining to the Busybodies

So I retaliated and soon we were in a battle about who lives the best life. I found myself having to explain that being a stay-at-home mom and housewife was my own decision. Just because Tonya was all about material things and wanted to spend her hard-earned money on designer clothes and keeping herself well groomed doesn’t mean that I am less fortunate than her. I felt I had to explain myself to all the nosy busybodies who just couldn’t mind their own business when it came to the feud between Tonya and me.

I started feuding with old friends and family. They said they felt like I’d changed, so I was blunt about their lives too. It seemed like this world was really full of haters, and like I was defending my life to the whole world.

My life became public. Yeah, they have features where you can block people and only let your friends view your information. Yet your “friends” can easily forward private information to other parties who aren’t on your friend list. This happened with some private pictures of me that got forwarded and also some personal information. Be careful who you send private messages to, because I had some of those forwarded too.

Facebook Junkie

image by Freddy Bruce

I also felt harassed by people I didn’t know. I did use the privacy settings, but still I had people I didn’t know sending sexual messages to my inbox. I was blocking about five people a week. (You can do this by going to Account, then Privacy Settings, then Block Lists.) I wasted hours deleting and blocking unwanted guests to my page. It was nerve-wracking: I wanted to just pull them through the computer screen and put them in their place personally!

So much of my Facebook experience was negative. There’s a reason Tonya was in my past and not in my present, and Facebook just opened up old wounds. But I’m a drama queen and it’s addictive. I am a Facebook junkie, even though it’s mostly painful being on there.

There are only 24 hours in a day, and I was spending four or more of them on Facebook. Like any other addiction, Facebook was causing conflict with me being a mom and wife. How could I be attending to my kids’ needs when I was always glued to the computer screen, or please my husband when strange men were trying to have virtual sex with me?

But at the time everything seemed normal. I ignored my family’s needs. I took out my anger on people in my real life as if they were the ones who upset me online.

Part of what’s addictive about Facebook is that it feels like getting close to people. It feels safer than talking to them in real life, but the communication can go wrong. People react in negative ways to something they read, but the same thing expressed by mouth would sound more positive. It also happens with texting. Typing just causes confusion when it comes to trying to communicate concerns or raw emotions.

Facebook fights are worse because personal business is being put out there in public instead of one person just picking up the phone and settling things with the other person. It gets a lot messier because people who have nothing to do with the beef start putting their two cents in and getting involved just because they want to take sides. And that can ruin friendships.

Taking Back My Life

I decided on my own that I was going to cut down my use of Facebook and be more in the real world rather than keep drifting into the online world. Tonya was an ex-friend who should have stayed that way. I realized that being with my family made me feel better than sitting in the house battling people who are not important to me.

But it was too hard to just stop using Facebook. So I tried to find a balance. The steps I took were simple. I removed Facebook from my phone and other daily devices and now I only log on to update and check updates for a maximum of 30 minutes.

I also tried to substitute outside trips to the library and park with my kids for hours spent on Facebook. I love getting on the floor with my girls, reading to them, tickling them, and just hearing them laugh. Children whose parents don’t spend enough time with them will either become very shy or act out to get noticed.

I also try to make time for myself as well. All mothers need time away from being a parent. Whenever I have the time to spend not being a mom, I play pool, go bowling, and see movies with real-life friends. I also have more time to feed my brain by reading self-help books instead of stressing myself online.

I still use Facebook once in a while, but for the most part I am done with posting comments on Walls. I have reverted back to texts and e-mails, and when a good friend has a birthday, I call her or him and say, “Happy Birthday.” A Wall post is emotionless. When you call a person, you can express and hear true emotions and it’s more personal, just between you two.

And I’ve learned some lessons on Facebook that apply in real life too. The best way to combat drama is to ignore it. Quit complaining to everybody and their dog about it; then it will have no power over you. I have realized that some things are better left unsaid. Now I stick by the saying, “If you don’t have something good to say, don’t say nothing at all.”

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(FCYU-2011-04-25)

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